Posts tagged: mining
FISHING — The EPA announcement last week that it will be a force against the proposed Pebble Mine that threatens salmon stocks in Alaska's Bristol Bay shook some ground last week.
Here are some more looks at the situation.
EPA to fight proposed copper mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said the proposed open-pit copper mine in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska posed too much of a threat to the water and the salmon spawning grounds in one of the world's best fisheries.
—New York Times; February 28
Alaska's Bristol Bay through the lens of a National Geographic photographer
Photographer Michael Melford's photographs taken for a 2010 National Geographic feature on the dispute about the Pebble Mine project in the watershed for Alaska's Bristol Bay, an important salmon spawning area and fishery.
National Geographic Daily News; March 2
UPDATED 3:55 p.m. on Feb. 28 with link to Associated Press story and comment from Pebble Mine official that EPA action is a “major overreach.”
FISHING — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it will use its Clean Water Act authorities to review impacts of a controversial proposed mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The proposed mine is opposed by anglers and conservationists from Alaska south along the Pacific Coast for the extreme risk it would present to the nation's greatest salmon fisheries.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, applauded the EPA action, noting that the Pebble Mine could have devastating effects on Washington state’s fishing industry, which employs thousands of workers in the Pacific Northwest and contributes more than $670 million to the regional economy each year.
The EPA action announced today prohibits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from issuing permits for a mine until review developing the environmental criteria for permitting is complete. The EPA has asked the Army Corps, the state of Alaska, and the mine project sponsor to provide evidence that the mine would not negatively impact water quality or aquatic resources, including the many fish species in the region.
Sen. Patty Murray said:
“I applaud the EPA for recognizing the real threat posed by this shortsighted mining proposal and taking action to protect Washington state’s fishing families,” said Sen. Murray. “The EPA’s Watershed Assessment has demonstrated that large scale mining such as the proposed Pebble Mine would devastate this critical industry that supports thousands of local families and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the regional economy.”
--Sen. Maria Cantwell said:
“I applaud this action today to protect Northwest fishing jobs from being destroyed by the largest open pit mine in North America,” said Cantwell. “Washington and Alaska fishermen depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods. Ruining headwaters with mining pollution is too big a risk to existing jobs in Pacific Northwest.
“Today, the administration is saying that potential gold mining is not more important than a $1.5 billion sockeye fishing industry. Gold might be an valuable commodity but it’s not more important than Pacific Northwest salmon.
“Wild salmon populations already face a number of threats,” Cantwell added. “Adding mining pollution to the spawning ground for the world’s number one sockeye salmon fishery doesn't make economic sense. Mining pollution could threaten 14,000 fishing jobs and a critical food source that subsistence fishermen depend on. I will work hard to ensure that fishermen have a voice as the 404C process moves forward. We cannot afford to put thousands of fishing jobs at risk.”
In June 2013, Murray and four other West Coast senators wrote a letter to President Obama calling the Administration to factor in the impact a permit for a mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, would have on the West Coast fishing industry.
Earlier this year, the EPA released a watershed assessment that details the potential impacts of a large scale mine development near Bristol Bay.
Read on for a sampling of reaction from sportsman and environmental groups:
FISHING — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is asking President Barack Obama to take action to restrict or prohibit the development of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.
The Associated Press reports that In a letter sent Thursday, Cantwell asked Obama to invoke a rarely used authority under the federal Clean Water Act to protect the region that is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.
The Democratic senator says thousands of jobs in Washington state are tied to Bristol Bay salmon fishing.
She, fishermen and others are rallying against the proposed Pebble Mine Thursday in Seattle.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report last week concluding that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses significant risks salmon.
Pebble Limited Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole says Cantwell’s request is unprecedented and has never been used before a resource project has filed for permits. He says “it flies in the face of due process.”
He also criticized the EPA document as a political report intended to harm the project’s ability to apply for permits.
PUBLIC LANDS — Several Idaho mining claim owners have sued the federal government, joining a push to expand motorized access in the West’s backcountry using a Civil War-era law governing travel across public lands, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Boise, argues the U.S. Forest Service illegally restricted use of four roads in Idaho County.
It’s similar to Utah lawsuits that were partially resolved this year when the federal government unlocked three gates, allowed all-terrain vehicles into the state’s western desert.
The Idaho County case was brought by 13 people with mining claims reached via roads extending deep into the Nez Perce National Forest.
The lawsuit contends federal Forest Service officials outstripped their authority by barring motorized access on roads used for more than a century for mining and recreation.
Click “continue reading” for the expanded version of the AP story with more details and context.
Today Jewell and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales are set to announce nearly two dozen conservation projects to help boost youth employment, the Department of the Interior says.
On Friday, she, Gov. John Kitzhaber and a representative from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will sign an agreement to speed the review and permitting of energy generation and power transmission projects in the Northwest.
ENVIRONMENT – I received the following email from a reader this morning:
Last Sunday my wife and I were riding our bikes on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene's between Rose Lake and Harrison. Along the way, we saw what appeared to be a significant number of dead swans. I probably know the answer, but is it the heavy metals in the area that are the cause of their demise?
The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a paved rail trail over a corridor used for a century to transport the produce of mining prosperity and its toxic aftermath. One of the benefits of the conversion to a recreational trail is that it exposes more eyes to the issue of heavy metals pollution still lingering in the Silver Valley.
The saddest indicators are the carcasess of 150 or so tundra swans that die slow, agonizing deaths in our backyard during their migration stopover on the Lower Coeur d’Alene River.
It’s not a pretty sight, but your head's in the sand if you don’t see the carnage and the reasons for it.
PUBLIC LANDS — Sally Jewell puts her best foot forward….
New York Times Reporter John M. Broder recently joined recently confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on a hike in order to talk about her new role of managing public lands.
Interior serves as steward for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.
Jewell is no stranger to the mountains, as you can see in the 2010 photo (above) taken as she was climbing Mount Rainier.
Followin are some of the outdoors topics we've explored in the past few days:
FISHERIES — A new study says a metal-like element called selenium is leeching from coal mines into the Elk river drainage in southeastern British Columbia, threatening fish habitat in Canada and downstream in Montana.
The study found five coal mines in the Elk River Valley are causing toxic pollution, and four of the coal mines are planning expansions.
The Missoulian reports a new coal mine proposal and three exploration projects are also under way.
The executive director of a conservation group called Wildsight says the selenium affects reproductive organs in fish and could lead to a population collapse.
The Elk River joins the Kootenai River at Lake Koocanusa.
The study was commissioned by Glacier National Park and carried out by the University of Montana’s Ric Hauer and Erin Sexton.
Expect more information on this alarming development.
FISHING — Idaho fly fishers and conservation groups are stepping up to back the Clearwater National Forest in challenging the rash of placer mining claims being filed for the North Fork of the Clearwater River.
A stream known for its native bull trout and westslope cutthroats is being seen as a honey-hole for miners with suction dredges. At least 36 mining claims have been filed along a 30-mile stretch of the river.
Tell that to your egg-sucking leech.
A relatively small number of miners have legal rights to dredge for gold — and screw with the attraction for thousands of recreationists — based on the Mining Rights Restoration Act of 1955 and the archaic Mining Act of 1872.
But at least the laws give the Forest Service the ability ask for a hearing before the Interior Board of Land Appeals to determine if placer mining will interfere with other uses.
If you were on the North Fork last summer and saw the “keep away from private property” signs along riverside claims, you got just a surface hint of what could come.
RIVERS — The riches of the Butte-area mining have evaporated in Western Montana as the federal government continues to try to undo the century-old environmental havoc the leftover heavy metals contributed to the Clark Fork River.
The $100-million project to remove Milltown Dam is complete.
Here's the latest step on the course back to a natural river, and wonderful fishery.
The Trustee Restoration Council charged with allocating the funds from Montana's settlement with Atlantic Richfield Co. over natural resource damage caused by decades of mining in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin signed off on a 20-year plan that will fund $65.5 million worth of projects crafted to improve water and land in Anaconda, Elliston, Drummond and Missoula, and another $40 million on groundwater projects in Butte and Anaconda, and now Gov. Brian Schweitzer must sign off on the plan. — Helena Independent Record
RIVERS — The Idaho Conservation League has petitioned the U.S. Forest Service, asking the agency to reconsider allowing more gold exploration near the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River.
See the story:
Idaho Statesman (AP); Nov. 21
RIVERS — An Idaho conservation group has dropped its lawsuit challenging state approval of a plan to dredge a stretch of the Salmon River for gold, according to the Associated Press.
The Idaho Conservation League backed away from its lawsuit last week mainly because the Mike Conklin of Grangeville also scrapped his plans to dredge the river.
ICL sued days after the state approved a mining lease for Conklin. In September, Conklin was awarded a five-year lease by the Idaho Land Board for exclusive access to a half-mile stretch of river downstream of Riggins.
In its lawsuit, ICL argued the state needed to approve a reclamation plan before approving suction dredge leases.
ICL officials say they also won state assurances that if Conklin changed his mind, he would have to go through the entire lease process again.
RIVERS — An environmental group has filed a lawsuit against Idaho after officials including Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter approved a plan to dredge the Salmon River for gold, the Associated Press reports.
The Idaho Conservation League on Tuesday asked a 4th District Court judge to require Idaho to approve a reclamation plan before signing off on any mining projects.
In September, Grangeville miner Mike Conklin was awarded a five-year lease by the Idaho Land Board giving him sole access to a half-mile stretch about 13 miles downstream of Riggins.
The Boise-based environmental group contends Otter and other board members ignored laws meant to protect Idaho’s water, arguing that miners who use gasoline-powered suction dredges often leave big holes in the riverbed that damage valuable habitat for salmon and steelhead.
Some anglers opposed Conklin’s permit, saying it will hurt fishing.
ENVIRONMENT – Some people in the Inland Northwest would like to think we live in a pristine area without need for strict environmental regulations or Superfund help.
But 150 or so tundra swans each year tell us something to the contrary as they slowly die during their migration stopover on the Lower Coeur d’Alene River.
It’s not a pretty sight, but your head's in the sand if you don’t see the carnage and the reasons for it.